Monday, 6 September 2010

My new bike

Two weeks ago, I bought a bike. I can now add my helmet to the ring of Londoners who get around on two, self-powered wheels. For me, it represents a freedom of movement. Even though public transport is close by and can get me to most places, travelling by bike is cheaper (in the long run), healthier, not restrained by timetables and takes me exactly where I want to go. In addition, it helps me connect the below-ground world with the above-ground streets, helping build my mental network of London streets.

I have already learnt some simple things about riding in London. In specifying a route, find a cycle superhighway. These are bike lane, coloured blue on the main road. These are a recent addition and offer a multitude of benefits:
  1. It’s limited to bicycles, and is part of a shared lane with buses. The buses are very aware of cyclists and to quote Manni from LESS, “They’re cool. They’re just like your big bruva.” Cars are more aware of the existence of cyclists too – a bright blue strip of road and constant cyclist traffic helps.
  2. They’re made from a courser mix of asphalt than the main road, which means it’s grippier for bike tyres, particularly in the wet, preventing aqua-planing.
  3. They’re smooth. I’ve travelled on other roads in the middle of town that are just patches on patches on patches. Makes it hard to accelerate, let alone sit down. Any service plates are well positioned and fairly level with the street you’re riding on. Where there are two plates, they’ve often left a gap big enough for a bike tyre to roll through, without needing to go over the ‘bump’.
A definite compliment to London planners is the rate of rain run off. Five minutes after a shower, you would hardly be able to tell from the roads, it’s all run out of sight.

Yesterday’s Sky Ride through the car-blocked streets of London was a safe (re-) introduction for some riders. However, some veterans are concerned that the newbies will not be able to handle themselves safely once they are in real London traffic – today for example, when Tube workers are striking. While it may be true that the rust-buckets (the bikes I mean) will make an appearance, I doubt it will take them too long to adapt - following the sound of horns and gusts of too-close-trucks sweeping them along. As for me, I’m still learning: the A3, with it’s 40mph speed limit, and no bike lane, is not somewhere I will voluntarily be riding again..

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